Two Poets: a fragment
Written in my third year of university in response to Kubla Khan
Two Poets: A fragment.
Whilst in an alcohol induced stupor James Veitch claims to have been ‘visited’ by the ghosts of two English poets. He believes he heard several hours of conversation between them but, on waking, he was called away on business to ‘do a fry up’ and this, combined with his intense hangover and the sheer extent of his laziness, has made it impossible to recall anything but a fragment of the episode.
The fire crackled and kept the chill from the two men sitting beside it. Outside the wind could be heard howling, occasionally the windows shook and the door banged. One of the men sat on a small wicker chair. He was leaned forward, one hand on his knee, the other holding up a single sheet of paper from which he appeared to be reading with fierce concentration. His face was young, almost childish, yet he frowned with effort and this lined his face endowing him with sagacious grace. The only light to read by was that of the fire and this threw flickers of light and shadow onto the manuscript almost giving the impression it was burning before their eyes. The other man sat back in a rocking chair, he was young, too, and seemingly at peace but though his eyes watched his partner and contemporary with patience his naked foot tapped out a nervous, uneven beat quietly onto the stone floor. It was November 1797.
Coleridge’s mind twisted and turned. He examined Wordsworth’s face. He was running his eyes painfully slowly over the manuscript for what must have been the third time. Every so often he could see him mouthing words along with what he read, he caught them occasionally and could almost feel the naked heat emanating from them, words like ‘chasm,’ ‘vaulted’ ‘measureless.’ He knew this was a great piece of work, possibly his best. He waited patiently for his verdict. The fire crackled, the wind howled, the windows shook and the door banged. Finally, after what seemed like hours, Wordsworth looked up.
Wordsworth had just read the first ever manuscript of ‘Cubla Khan’. He had read it through several times, deconstructed it and constructed it again, done a rigorous if slightly paranoid search for irony and finally come to the rather unnerving conclusion that it was utter drivel. Furthermore it was clear to Wordsworth that Coleridge had gone utterly mad.
‘It came to me in my sleep’
“It came to me in my sleep. ‘
‘You were asleep when you wrote this poem ? ‘
Wordsworth let this sink in.
‘That sort of, uh, explains a lot’
‘Come on Sam. It’s shite’
‘Fuck are you talking about man? It’s utter genius.’
‘Xannadu? Xannadu man ? ‘ Wordsworth’s voice got slightly high pitched when he was excited, ‘What the FUCK is Xannadu? ‘
‘Maaaaaan’ Coleridge sighed. This meant he was really pissed off.
‘I’ll read it again, alright? ‘
Wordsworth bowed his head to the manuscript and re-read ‘Cubla Khan’. He tried to manoeuvre it through the subjectivity trap then he tried shrouding the whole poem in Aristotle’s idea of hubris. Still nothing. He checked the meter, rhyme scheme, finally he searched for alliteration and assonance, desperate to find something of merit. He looked up and cocked his head to one side.
‘This bit’s, uh, nice. Here you say ‘Damsel with a dulcimer’
What?’ Coleridge was dumbfounded.
‘Well just that the um alliteration is really good on this bit, it’s really uh…’ Wordsworth gave up ‘Mate, I’m afraid it’s just bollocks’
‘Whatever man. It came to me in my sleep. It was sort of like given to me’
‘Given to you?’ Wordsworth regained his composure.
‘Uh huh. You wanna know where it came from man ? You wanna know? ‘
‘Uh, look…can we talk about this tomorrow. I’m really tired.‘ He didn’t like where this was going. ‘
‘It came ‘ Coleridge smiled serenely. ‘from God.’
Coleridge sank back in his chair and sighed with smug satisfaction. He knew this had fucked Wordsworth off royally.
‘Sam, we’ve known each other a long time haven’t we?’
‘Yeah man, like forever.’
‘And I’ve always been there for you haven’t I ? I mean remember the time a few weeks ago when you couldn’t get any smack you called me up and I got my mate who knows someone, remember? Well, listen, you’ve got to stop going on about God.’
‘Blake says ..’
‘I don’t give a FLYING FUCK about Blake.’
‘Well I think it’s my greatest achievement yet’
‘Listen to this, let’s have a look at it shall we?’ Wordsworth quoted, ‘Five miles meandering with a mazy motion / Through wood and dale the sacred river ran’….well?’
‘Well ..what? ‘
‘What’s all that about ? Sacred rivers? Mazy motion? Wait, were you on opium when you wrote this ?
‘Maybe’ Coleridge said coyly.
‘Jesus. Fuck. ‘
‘I’ll show it to Byron. He’ll like it.’
‘That’s if he gets your dick out of his mouth long enough to tell you’ .